Mustafa Seif was the proud winner of the 2017 edition of Top Chef. Find out in this exclusive interview how he won.


Could you give us some background details on the Top Chef competition? How many chefs participated; who were the jury members and what were the rules?

Top Chef Middle East is a reality competition that airs on MBC in which 15 chefs compete against one another. It is based on the American television show Top Chef. The contestants are judged by three of the Arab’s World top Chefs; the celebrity Chinese–Egyptian Chef Bobby Chinn, Saudi Chef Mona Moussalli and Lebanese Chef Maroun Chedid and a weekly panel of professional chefs and other personalities from the food industry with one or more contestants eliminated in each episode.

Each episode has two main challenges: the Quickfire Challenge and the Elimination Challenge.
In the Quickfire Challenge each contestant is required to cook a dish with specific requirements or participate in a culinary-related challenge within one hour or less. A guest judge selects one or more chefs as the best in the challenge.

In the Elimination Challenge, the contestants have to prepare one or more dishes to meet the challenge requirements. Some of these challenges can be individual while others could require teamwork. After the Elimination Challenge ends, the three judges consider the guests’ comments and deliberate on the best and worst dishes.

How did you prepare yourself for the challenge?

I prepared by reading books on Arabic cuisine and trained myself to focus on the speed and accuracy of the tasks that are assigned so as to do what is needed on time while maintaining accuracy. In fact I did not have enough time in which to train; I was informed of my participation in the program only one month ahead of time.

Do you think the education at the Culinary Training Centers Egypt helped you to compete and, if so, in what particular way did it help?

It certainly helped me a lot; it taught me the basic cooking methods and how to handle all the products. I learned how to deal with the ingredients in front of me and how an ingredient can be integrated into many different recipes.

What was your winning menu / dish?

I won several awards in this program; I won the best dish with the singari fish I prepared in the fifth episode of the program. In an episode that had beet as its main theme, I prepared a beet pudding (mehlabyia) and won the best beet-integrated dish. In another episode, whose theme was recalling memories, I prepared a lamb fillet dish with freik.

The winning menu of the final included three dishes: seafood stew, ceviche sea scallop, and strawberry cheesecake with gooseberries.

What do you think helped you win the competition and what was the secret of your success?

My patience and my faith in God: knowing how to deal with every task or challenge I faced. The secret of success is focusing on goals; nothing is impossible given that I believe I am capable of doing anything.

If you had to describe Top Chef in one sentence what would it be?

It was like a dream but a dream that came true.

How will the win at Top Chef help you in your career?

Winning the title helped me with new challenges. Participation in the program opened many doors; I came into contact with many experienced chefs. It also helped me acquire new skills and increased my experience.

What are your aspiration for the future?

I hope that Egyptian cuisine willbe able to compete and reach its rightful place on the international culinary scene. I want the whole world to acknowledge Egyptian cuisine.

On a personal level: I look forward to realizing my own projects but I face several challenges which include finding a team to help me and finding a good sponsor.

Do you have any advice for young chefs who wish to enter culinary competitions?

They have to follow the specific rules and regulations of each competition. They need to accept criticism. Young chefs should have the required spirit and have the necessary determination and persistence to win.

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